Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Goals For The New Year

I'm not really big on making resolutions. Not that I'm perfect, far from it, but I do have some goals I'd like to stick with this year.

1) Go to the gym at least 5 days a week. This wouldn't normally be on the list, but this month (December) has been so hectic, I feel like I've gotten off of my normal schedule, and I really need to make the effort in January to get back to normal. Of course, with a launch in February, this might be difficult to really get back to "normal" until mid-March, but hey, that's why it's a goal, right?

2) Have more patience with people. Since moving out of the College Park area and into Northern Virginia, I've found that there are a lot of dumb people in the world. There are a lot more in the real world than there are on a college campus. I need to be more patient with people in general. Not everybody needs to have their driver's license revoked because they're going 45 mph in the slow lane. Not every large family in the grocery store is being purely evil when they block you and your cart from going through an aisle. Maybe they just don't know they're being very obtrusive.

3) Relax a bit more. I used to meditate regularly, and I'd like to get back to that. Maybe I'll do some yoga, or at least some gentle stretching, either in the morning or at night. I have a feeling that this goal might help with goal #2.

4) Post my pictures onto eHarmony and do something with it. I guess this is self-explanatory. I didn't find "the one" in college, but I'm more than ready to get back onto the dating scene.

5) Figure out why even after surgery in December, my hand still hurts--and either come to terms with the pain or finally make it all go away. This is my biggest goal, as right now, it frustrates me on a daily basis. I know I'm only 3.5 weeks post-op, and that I need to give it time, but at the same point, I'm finding things that hurt before surgery still hurt now, and maybe it's just because of the Ehlers-Danlos and I need to accept it. But at this point in my life, I'm already fairly limited in the things I can do, and if I can reduce further limitations, that would be wonderful.

6) Drink more tea and water. I've actually been doing this for the last 2 months or so, but I want to keep it up. The only times I seem to have soda now is when I'm drinking mixed drinks. I'd like to keep it that way, tea and water are better for me than soda. I doubt I'll be giving up my coffee, but after my 20 oz. cup in the morning, I think I can move to tea and water.

7) Take more photos. I have one camera that's my "in-between" step between a digital point-and-shoot and a DSLR, and I really should be shooting more than I am. Other than when I go out sailing, my camera is neglected more than it should be. I have thoughts on getting a LX3, and between that and my Olympus, I should be shooting more.

So that's that. If I remember, I'll try to post in early February and see how these things are going. :)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Another Baked Pasta Recipe

In my previous post, I alluded to a recipe I made tonight that turned out quite nicely. I had a half pound of pasta sitting around, and I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it. I thought about a pasta bake, but I wanted something a bit heartier. This is what I came up with:

Baked Pasta with Ricotta
1/2 lb pasta (elbows or cavatappi)
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 package mushrooms (I used a 4 oz pkg of mixed fancy mushrooms) -- not canned
15 oz. can tomato sauce
1/2 of 15 oz. tub of ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozarella
basil (I used dried--if desired)
oregano (I used dried--if desired)
thyme (I used dried--if desired)
olive oil (for keeping noodles from sticking)
butter (for saute pan)

Preheat oven to 375 F. In large pot, cook pasta (remember to follow The Ten Commandments of Dry Pasta).
While pasta is cooking, saute mushrooms, onion, green pepper, and thinly sliced garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste, and some dried basil, thyme, and oregano if desired.
When pasta is cooked al dente, drain, then return to pot (off heat), drizzle a little olive oil into the pasta.
Add the tomato sauce and minced garlic to the noodles, stir so all noodles are coated.
Add the vegetable mixture to the noodles, stir so well combined.
Add the ricotta to the noodle and veggie mixture, stir so well combined.
(Note, at this point, you could eat this and have a great meal!)
Dump mixture into a 11"x7" pan and bake in preheated oven, covered, for 20-25 minutes.
Stir/redistribute pasta when it comes out, cover with shredded mozarella, and put back into oven for 10 minutes (until mozarella melts).
Serve. :) I've found that it's easier to cut if you let it cool a little bit.

Hope you enjoy! I know I did. ;)

Recipe Time: Generic Pasta Bake

I just cooked up a great baked pasta, and figured I'd share the recipe. Before I do, however, I figured I'd post my "original" baked pasta recipe, the one I use when I have a crowd to feed or when I need a ton of leftovers.

Generic Pasta Bake
1 lb. pasta such as penne, elbows, or fusili
1 24-26 oz. jar of sauce (the large size of Barilla, Prego, Classico, or whatever you like)
1 jar of water
2 cups of shredded cheese (Italian Mix or Mozarella)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In 9"x13" pan, combine UNCOOKED pasta, jar of sauce, and jar of water (use empty sauce jar, fill it up with water, and dump that in). Mix well so everything is coated and consistent.
Cover pan and bake for 30 minutes (35 if using whole wheat pasta).
Remove from oven, stir up contents, cover with cheese, and put back in oven to bake for another 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

If you want to add meat, brown up some ground turkey, chicken, or beef and drain it. Add the ground meat to the sauce and then add all that to the noodles and water.
You can also add onions, celery, green pepper, mushrooms, or whatever else you like. Saute it up, and add it to the sauce, before combining with the noodles.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It's Cold Outside - Time for Chili!

I was trying to get rid of some of the things in my pantry and in my fridge today, so came across a chili recipe that sounded tasty. Unfortunately, I didn't have all of the ingredients it called for per se (I was missing some basic things like onion and garlic, for shame!), so I modified it a little bit. The original recipe I adapted this from is here (without the topping thingie). This turned out really tasty. This is how I made it:

~1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 lb ground chicken/turkey (I used Kosher turkey)
~1.5 tsp garlic powder (would have used chopped/minced garlic if I had any on hand)
~1.5 tsp onion powder
2 leeks, chopped (didn't have any onion, maybe 1 chopped?)
1 carrot, chopped (I used a bunch of baby carrots, chopped up)
~6 drops of Habanero pepper sauce (or use 1 jalapeno, with or without seeds, chopped)
salt & pepper
1.5 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
6 oz beer (I used Dogfish Head Raison D'Etre)
1/4 cup cayenne pepper hot sauce (I used Frank's)
15 oz. can diced tomatoes with green chiles, with juices
15 oz. can tomato sauce
15 oz. can red kidney beans, drained
15 oz. can white kidney beans, drained

Heat a medium Dutch oven or large skillet over high heat. Add the olive oil and the butter and melt together. Add the ground turkey and cook, breaking up the meat, for 6 minutes.
Add the garlic, leeks, carrot and hot sauce. Season with salt, pepper, cumin and coriander, and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the beer and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan; reduce mixture over medium-ish heat for 2-3 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes, hot sauce, and the tomato sauce. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the chili for 20 minutes.

This recipe turned out quite spicy! To combat some of the spice, I shredded some Tillamook cheddar and topped the chili with it. I also made mashed potatoes on the side. I'm thinking of baking up some of the leftovers in a sort of "southwestern shepherd's pie" type creation. I also had some broccoli. I'm definitely going to be making this again. It was really yummy (and I have leftovers!).

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pumpkin Bread

I haven't posted in awhile, things have been very crazy between buying a house, moving, and having some crazy work stuff come up, so I figured today I'd post something simple: my recipe for pumpkin bread. It's really simple, notterribly unhealthy, and unbelievably tasty.

Dry Ingredients

2.5 cup sugar
3.5 cup flour
1-2 tsp cinnamon (I use 2)
1 tsp nutmeg
1-2 tsp ground ginger (I use 2)
2 tsp baking soda
0.5 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients
4 beaten large eggs
0.5 cup oil (I use safflower oil)
2/3 cup water
2 cup pumpkin (I use one 15 oz. can of pumpkin, NOT pumpkin pie filling)

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Grease 2 bread pans (I use glass).
In one bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients so they're well mixed.
In another bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients (I do the eggs first, then add the rest).
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and then mix together until everything is just mixed but not overmixed (I do not find it necessary to use a hand mixer, just a sturdy spatula or wooden spoon).
Pour the half the batter into one bread pan, the rest in the other.
Bake for 1 hour, or until the edges are pulling from the sides of the pan and a knife or toothpick in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
Cool for about 15 minutes in the bread pans on a cooling rack, then remove the loaves from the bread pans and let them cool the rest of the way (if you can wait!).

This bread tastes pretty darn good fresh out of the oven but it's even better when it's fully cooled.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ehlers-Danlos - Update

I had my appointment at Hopkins on September 16th. For those of you that want the Cliff's Notes version, the long and short of it is that I do in fact have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, though it's uncertain which type. I could have the hypermobility (most common) type, the classical type, or the vascular type--the doctor couldn't tell for certain. He did do a skin biopsy, which he said is the gold-standard test to determine if a patient has the vascular type of EDS, so I should know the results from that in mid-December or so.

My appointment at Hopkins was a long day up in Baltimore. The genetic medicine center at Hopkins is contained within the Pediatric Cardiology center. Let me tell you, if you want a way to feel old really quickly, walk into peds cardiology. It honestly made me a little sad, too, as there were some kids there who were really young (one couldn't have been more than a year old, soem of them were about 6 or 7, another I saw was about 10). I felt really weird being an otherwise healthy 28-year-old around all these kids who had real health issues. It was a bit sad, really, I can't imagine being a parent with a kid who needs to go to a cardiologist at that young an age.

Anyway...I had to get there at around 10 a.m., as I had an appointment to get an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) at 11. I guess, since it's a peds clinic, that when they typically do these, they need the kids to relax, so they have it setup so you can watch a movie while you get it done. Though I've had one before and didn't really feel a "need" to watch a movie, the tech picked one for me (National Treasure) and between the movie and the heated bed, the echo went by really quickly. Even better, the echo showed that my heart is doing well. There was no sign of an enlarged mitral valve (which I could've sworn I had signs of on my previous echo), nor any mitral valve prolapse (a common symptom of EDS).

After lunch, I had to return to the clinic to talk to the genetics doc. I was with him from about 1 p.m. until almost 4 p.m.! He did a lot of different things. Some were things you'd find on a normal physical, some seemed kind of odd. For example, he asked me if I had a high palate (and I honestly had no idea), so he stuck his finger in my mouth to find out that yes, mine is fairly high.

He also wanted to see the flexibility in my joints, and see how much my joints hyperextended. At one point, he had a total of 9 points possible, and I'm kind of curious of what the 9th point was. I got a 7 out of 9: my left elbow, both knees, my left pinkie, and both wrists are hyperextensive. I would have gotten an 8, as my right pinkie "should" be hyperextensive, but since it's been broken and pinned, the new alignment serves as a mechanical lock for that hyperextension. My right elbow was the only point I missed "naturally." I know it was one point each for each pinkie, each elbow, each knee, and each wrist, but I'm curious as to what the 1 joint was that I apparently also got a point for. I didn't think to ask then.

At the end of the exam, the doc said that I do have Ehlers-Danlos. This really doesn't come as a surprise, given my history with my joints. He wasn't able to determine which type I have, though, which he indicated was unusual. In the current classification scheme, there are 6 types of EDS. Three are very rare, with fewer than 100 reported cases of each. He doesn't think I have any of those. However, of the three more common types, hypermobility (most common), classical, and vascular (least common of the three), he isn't certain which type I have.

Of the three types, only the vascular type is "scary"-it leads to premature death (according to the Wikipedia article, the average person with vascular EDS dies at about age 48). Fortunately, there is a gold-standard test (his words, not mine) for testing for that type--a skin biopsy, which he performed. I should know the results in about 3 months, or mid-December. The doctor seems to think it's unlikely that I have the vascular form, though couldn't rule it out completely (short of the biopsy). I'm missing some of the classical symptoms of that form, including characteristic facial features and heart issues. I also don't have any family members who have died young of unexplained causes or of organ rupture or anyeurism, which is a good sign.

Assuming I don't have vascular EDS, the doc seems to think it safest to assume that I have classical EDS, which has more implications than the hypermobility type. With the hypermobility type, the only real thing I have to worry about is that my joints will typically be loose, and therefore surgeries to stabilize the joints will typically fail. With the classical type, there are a couple more concerns:
1) wounds can take longer to heal, so when having any type of surgery, I should ask that the sutures be kept in longer and pay attention to any signs of internal wounds not healing
2) pregnancy can be dangerous, as there is a chance of uterine rupture (I'll have to talk to my personal doc about that)

With the classical and hypermobility types, one of the best things I can do is continue working out and developing my tonic strength--that is, not lift for bulk, but for toning. I guess that means I'll keep working out with Brian. :) While he helps me continue to improve my tonic strength, he can also help me ensure that when I lift and stretch, I'm not hyperextending my joints.

So, in the end, I finally have a reason for why I've had so many problems with my joints. EDS is a genetic disorder that is autosomal dominant. That apparently means that it impacts both genders equally (females can have higher severity, but the incidence rate is the same between male and female) and that you only need 1 gene with the mutation to get it. This means that there is a 50% chance that I can pass on the disease to each child I have. They will always get the same form as I have. I'm kind of curious which parent I got this from (or if it was a spontaneous mutation in me). My sister thinks she may have some joint hypermobility, so it is probably safe to assume that it came from one of our parents. In the end, though, it probably doesn't matter which parent has it--I do have it, and now I just have to keep it in mind when getting my injuries treated and when considering surgery.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Feeling Sore

This past week, I barely got to the gym, owing to work and another mitigating circumstance (a good circumstance, but mitigating none the less).

Tuesday, I worked out with Brian. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get to play with him on Thursday. I swam on Friday, though my swim didn't go quite according to plan. I had intended to leave work at noon and swim about 2,000 yards, but I ended up leaving work a little after 2 and swimming only about 1500 yards, as I didn't want to be late for picking up my friend from the airport.

Maybe it was just that I didn't workout as much this week, or maybe it's owing to the swim workout I did, I felt sore for the first time after swimming. Or, maybe I can attribute the soreness to a late night on Friday without much sleep. Either way, Saturday afternoon I started feeling a bit sore.

Aside from Advil, are there any things I can do to ease muscle soreness after tough workouts? I know one of my friends in college swore by eating lots of high-protein meals after hard workouts, but I don't know if that's got any scientific merit. I think soaking in the whirlpool at the gym after hard workouts and gentle stretching will help, but is there anything else I can do?

I guess some research is in order. Despite having a little residual soreness this morning, I decided to go swimming again this morning, knocking out about 2,100 yards. Today's workout:
50 free with paddles
rest enough to start my watch
450 free with paddles
rest 1 minute
300 free with paddles
100 kick
100 pull free with paddles and buoy
rest 1 minute
300 backstroke
100 kick
100 pull free with paddles and buoy
rest 1 minute
300 free with paddles
100 kick
100 pull free with paddles and buoy
rest 1 minute
100 breast

My backstroke and breaststroke are quite weak, but I was quite happy that I was able to do 300 back and 100 breast. I'm thinking of finding a swim lesson for adults that know the jist of the strokes, but really want to improve their skills. I don't think I'm a good enough swimmer for Master's swimming yet (once I get to a continuous mile consistently, I'll think about it), but I'd like to improve my strokes and ensure that what I'm doing won't hurt my shoulders.

I guess that was a lot of randomness for a Sunday, but hey, what can you do.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Back to the Pool

Surprisingly, I woke up on Saturday feeling pretty darn good. I had a bit of trouble falling asleep Friday night. One reason was that I had too much coffee in the late afternoon and evening. I don't usually drink more than a cup a day, but after swimming on Friday, I was pretty tired, and wanted to be awake to hang out with my friends. Thus, I had a diet Coke and 2 cups of coffee over the course of the afternoon and evening. The other reason that it was hard to fall asleep is because my shoulders were feeling tired and sore. It was an unusual feeling, and neither "tired" nor "sore" is the right way to describe it, but it's the best that comes to mind. I eventually got everything to calm down and I went to sleep, waking up Saturday feeling great.

Instead of going to the gym yesterday, I ended up putting my bike on the trainer and pedaling in front of the TV for an hour and change. I'm not sure why, but I didn't feel like going to the gym, but I wanted to workout, so it was a nice alternative. Also, I hadn't touched my bike in awhile, so even though putting it on the trainer isn't the same as really riding (especially since I barely used my right hand on the bars), it felt nice to use it, show it a little love.

Inspired by my good workout on Friday and my goal for the week to get into the pool twice this week, I went swimming this morning. I had planned to do Friday's workout again, that is "workout 2" from The Fit Swimmer (150 yards swim free, 75 yards kick, 75 yards pull, 150 yards swim free). As with Friday, I ended up doing something different. Today's workout was:
300 swim free
75 kick
75 pull with buoy and hand paddles
Rest 1 minute, then repeat above, then rest 1 minute.
300 swim free with hand paddles
75 kick
75 pull with buoy and hand paddles
Rest 1 minute, then repeat above, then rest 1 minute.
50 kick
50 pull with buoy and hand paddles
repeat above twice more
Total distance: 2,100 yards (1 mile + 300 yards)

I was getting tired by the end, but not feeling "dead" so I figured I should probably stop before overdoing it. As with Friday's workout, my toes started cramping, but nowhere near as much as they did on Friday, and my fingers didn't cramp up at all.

Things I learned:
  • Getting into the water before 8 a.m. on a Sunday is a good thing. The pool started filling up as I was ending my workout, but for most of my swim, it was only myself and 1 other person in the entire pool.
  • I need to be fairly well-hydrated before I start swimming. I have good intentions of drinking water in my rest periods, but I barely touched my water bottle. I had to keep myself from chugging my water after I finished.
  • Eating a banana on swim days (before the swim) is probably a good idea. I had a banana with breakfast before I went to the gym, and I think that helped keep me from cramping up towards the end of my swim. I suppose I could see if there are any of the water varieties that have potassium, too...
Now to figure out what to do with the rest of my day...

Friday, August 01, 2008

What Was I Thinking?

So, it's been over a year since I last swam on a "regular" basis. The last time I swam was about a month and a half ago, and before that was probably 5 months previous. So I decided, after watching Wendy's triathlon over the weekend, that I should get my butt in gear and swim more.

So I did. I have a book called "The Fit Swimmer: 120 Workouts and Training Tips." The first 12 (or 13?) workouts are setup such that you're supposed to do 1 workout 3 times per week, and they build you up to a mile of continuous swimming. The first workout is to do 9 50's, for example. The first 3 workouts, if I remember correctly (the book is at work right now) are all 450 yard swims.

I started on workout 2, which is supposed to be:
150 free
75 kick
75 pull with buoy
150 free, progressive
(no rest, only stop long enough to switch equipment)

What did I do?
150 free
75 kick
75 pull with buoy and paddles
150 free
(no rest, only stopped long enough to switch equipment)
Repeated the above 2 times, with no more than a minute between 450 sets.
Then swam 300. Then kicked 75. Then pulled 75 (with buoy and paddles). The kicked 50, pulled 50, kicked 50, pulled 50.

Total distance: 2,000 yards (1 mile + 200 yards)
One thing I did notice was that it felt better to swim with the paddles than without. As I found out, the pressure of my stroke on my right hand is enough to make it hurt. The paddles, while adding resistance (thus making me stronger!), diffused the pressure a bit. In today's swim, I borrowed Wendy's paddles, TYR Mentor paddles (she has the red ones). I'll be going to the swimming store tomorrow to pick up a pair for myself.

I'm glad I swam today, and glad I was able to do a pretty good workout, but for some reason, I think I'm going to regret this in the morning...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

My Orthopods Are My Primary Care Docs

I finally went back to the orthopaedist yesterday for my hip. Though my hip started hurting again early this month, I felt like I'd been in that office too many times recently, and wanted to ensure that a "more normal" amount of time had elapsed between office visits. Truthfully, my orthopaedists have become my primary care physicians. The only times I end up in a normal GP's office is when I need a pre-op evaluation. When I get sick, I end up at Urgent Care more often than not (that happens once a year or so).

Anyway, as expected, the doc couldn't give me another cortisone shot so soon after the previous one, so he prescribed physical therapy. Sometimes, I wish they could prescribe PT over the phone. I knew that was what he'd do, and I had to take the entire afternoon off of work to go to the appointment. I even got a PT appointment for last night. It was just the initial eval, so after taking measurements of strength and range of motion, all the PT did was massage, ultrasound, then stim with ice. Even with "just" that, my hip was really sore all night and for most of today.

That didn't stop me from going to the gym today, though. Last week was a very hectic week at work, with many meetings for problems on one of my satellites and also mission rehersals for the upcoming launch on the other satellite I'm working on. As such, I only got into the gym 3 times last week, and I really wanted to get this week started off right. Since I had to skip yesterday because of the doc appointment and then PT, and because I had a session with Brian, I was particularly motivated to get back into my working out ways. Today felt reasonably good, even with the hip. I warmed up with 36 minutes on the elliptical, then he had me lifting for about 50 minutes, then he stretched out my hamstrings and such.

One goal I have for this week is to try to get into the pool at least twice this week. I went to cheer on Wendy at the Hagerstown Sprint Tri on Sunday. Watching those kinds of races is always a little tough, it consistently reminds me of how much I miss that kind of thing. Don't get me wrong, I can still swim, and once I resolve the issues with my hand, I should be able to bike, but I'll never run again (and I did love that). Since the hand is on hold until after September 16th, I figure I can at least try to get back onto a regular swimming schedule. I'm not quite sure when I'll get my swims in, given that I have to leave work no later than 3:30 to guarantee getting a spot in a lane at my gym's pool. Tomorrow (Wednesday), it's looking like I'll have a meeting until at least 4, and Thursday is a Brian day, so right now I'm thinking of swimming on Friday and Sunday. We'll see how that works out.

Speaking of hands, my left thumb is feeling better. I'm still having a little bit of pain with a pinch and a wide-grip, but all in all, it's at about 90%. My right hand, though, is still hurting quite a bit. Though I've gone back to a more normal amount of usage (since my left hand isn't splinted anymore), it still seems to be irritated. I wish I knew what was wrong so I could figure out how to make it better. Right now, I'm planning on going back to the hand doctor after September 16th. The 16th is the day that I'll be going to the genetics clinic up at Hopkins, so hopefully after that, I'll know if I do in fact have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. The only reason that may change is if my ankle keeps acting up.

My ankle's been unusually sore for a prolonged period of time. Not only is it sore in ways it's been before, some of the pain/discomfort is new. In one case, I think the bone around 2 of my screws is either irritated, or the screws are trying to push out, or the bone is growing a spur over the screw heads, as it hurts to put on shoes and put pressure over the area where 2 of the screws were inserted. The other observation I have is that lately, it's been swelling up when I walk around, or after workouts at the gym. The last time it did that, I'd torn (or re-torn) the ligaments in my ankle. Given that they used my own tissue for my last reconstruction, and given that I seem to have rather poor quality soft tissue, I'm slightly concerned that the re-re-reconstruction may have come undone. I'm going to play that one by ear. If the pain over the screws becomes much worse, I'm going to make the ankle a higher priority over the hand. I don't know what can be done about the ligament, in part it will depend on the EDS diagnosis, but if the screws have to come out, they have to come out (and that should be relatively easy).

Edited to fix typos, add link to Hagerstown Tri.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A Bad Week Made Worse

This week was a difficult week at work. There is a problem on the project I'm working on, a problem that's occupying quite a bit of my time. I've also been helping fill in for another person, who was out all week on vacation, and there were some problems that showed up today with that project. And, as it turns out, there was another issue that popped up on a project I'm consulting on. I love being busy, and I love that my co-workers feel that they can rely on me, but it still made for a rather trying week. I'm glad that the weekend is here, and that I should be able to relax a bit over the next 3 days.

This was a bad week, injury-wise.
My left thumb, sprained about 5 weeks ago, had a flare-up over the last week or so. It felt like my thumb was getting better, excepting for pinching and doing a wide grip, but then it started really hurting again, like it did just after I first sprained it. It hurt enough that I decided to go see a hand doctor. I opted not to see the hand doc who did my first hand surgery (Dr. Leo Rozmaryn at The Orthopaedic Center in Rockville, MD), but ended up seeing Dr. Miller of Town Center Orthopaedics in Reston, VA (he's much closer). I don't think I'll ever go back to Dr. Berdia, the one who did my 2nd hand surgery. Anyway, Dr. Miller said that for a normal person, because the thumb is difficult to "not use," it can take a couple months to get back to 100%. He also mentioned that I'm not "normal" (given that it seems likely that I have Ehlers-Danlos, or at least some form of Hypermobility Syndrome).

My right hand, broken 3 times, also started hurting more again. Maybe it's that I've been using it more, since hurting my left thumb, but it's definitely feeling worse than usual. Don't get me wrong, my right hand (5th metacarpal, specifically), has been hurting for over a year now, I'm kind of used to it...but this is actually hurting more than it usually does. If normally, a "bad" day is a 7 out of 10 on the pain scale (with a "bad" day coming once every 2 weeks or so), this last week or so it's been an 8.5 out of 10 (where every day has had a bad moment). I guess the only up-side here is that once I'm ready to deal with my right hand again, I feel comfortable going back to see Dr. Miller, instead of driving all the way up to Rockville. I got kind of frustrated after my last hand surgery, that the surgery really seemed to do nothing for the pain or the other symptoms, and that the doc didn't seem to know what to do next. On top of being frustrated, life's been incredibly busy since then (various spacecraft in 24/7 testing), and given that I've got 2 launches coming up this year (programs I'm directly involved in), I'm trying to wait until after at least the first launch to see another doc again. That should co-incide nicely with figuring out if I do in fact have Ehlers-Danlos, for whatever that'll be worth.

Finally, my hip has started flaring up again over the last 3 days. Maybe it's got to do with me doing the elliptical so much...I usually flip a coin before figuring out what my cardio is going to be at the gym. I'm at the gym, on average, 5-7 days per week. I lift on 2 of those days, so it's 30 minutes of cardio followed by an hour of lifting. On the other days, I just do cardio, for a little over an hour. Two weeks ago, I had an entire week of flipping "tails," which corresponds for me to doing the exercise bike. Last week, it was an entire week of flipping "heads," corresponding to the elliptical. This week, it's been 2 days of elliptical and 1 day of bike so far (I took off on Monday). While training this afternoon (lifting day), I felt my hip hurting. Now that I'm home, it hurts to roll onto my side. I guess this is probably my tendonitis coming back, but I had hoped that it was gone. I had a cortisone injection in my hip about 7 weeks or so ago, and it was feeling pretty good, but now that it's hurting to roll onto my side, or do certain motions, I'm a bit...nervous. I guess if it persists I'll have to go back to an orthopod, maybe get into some physical therapy. Have I mentioned how much I hate PT?

To top it all off, my ankle's been feeling stiff/sore all week. I guess it's normal, it's hard for me to tell. It's been 4 years and a week or so since my fusion, and it's been feeling great in general, but this week has been especially uncomfortable.

Oh well. 3 day weekend, that can only be good, right?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Misc Updates

I am finally out of the splint for my thumb! Yay, just in time for the release of Final Fantasy Tactics A2. The original FFTA was the first game I bought for my Gameboy Advance and was a game I sunk well over 200 hours into, mostly as I recovered from my various surgeries. I expect FFTA2 to be firmly entrenched in my DS for a good long while.

Yesterday I went to Stitch DC in the district to try to take an introductory knitting class. After sitting in traffic for about 2 hours (coming from work in Dulles) and standing out in the rain/storms for 30 minutes, the class was cancelled, as the instructor seemed to be MIA. The only good thing to come out of yesterday was that I got to see a really cool double rainbow, which other DC-area people took photos of (pictures at The Capital Weather Gang's site). I, unfortunately, was on 395 at the time, so there was no stopping on the side of the road to take pictures. I'll have to rely on those taken by others (which are quite good).

Kottke has linked to a very interesting article about itching and perception. [Edited to add] I must confess, this link caught my eye because of my experiences with itching in an area where I have had a nerve removed. [end Edit] Since having a portion of my sural nerve removed in 2004, if I have any itch in my ankle and try to scratch it, I don't get any relief from the scratching. I've found slapping works better, oddly enough. The article is quite interesting, I highly recommend it. [Added] This article talks more about perception as it relates to itching, and gives a bit of a history of a patient with a persistent itch problem. It also discusses various related disorders, treatments, and a bit of history about the research into itching (and scratching, and also the related perception, tickling).

Monday, June 09, 2008

Ehlers-Danlos Follow-Up

On Thursday night as I drove home from the gym, I got a call from the genetic clinic at Hopkins. It was the call I've been expecting for awhile, the call from the genetic counselor. She asked me a few questions, including:
- Explain your hypermobility (which joints, how do you know they're hypermobile, etc)
- Has anybody in your family ever died suddenly?
- Do you bruise easily?

The 2nd and 3rd were easy to answer (not that I know of and not that I've ever noticed). The first was a little trickier, as I know my shoulders are hypermobile, and I'm pretty sure my ankle would be considered hypermobile, but for the rest of my joints, I can only go on what doctors and physical therapists have said, which is that most of my joints move too much. Of course, instead of saying that, I talked about how my shoulders have had non-traumatic dislocations and subluxations, even after stabilization surgery, and how my ankle didn't take 3 surgeries with good surgeons, requiring my eventual fusion.

So now I have an appointment set with the connective tissue group at Hopkins for September 16th. The appointment will start with an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart), which is a little scary. Not that echocardiogram's are scary, I mean, but that there really could be something wrong with my heart. The more I read about EDS, the more...nervous I guess I am, but I'm trying not to read too much and trying not to self-diagnose. Come Sept. 16th, I'll hopefully know a lot more, and stop playing the guessing game. I guess we'll see.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Roz Rows Across the Pacific

Thanks to TWiT, I found out about this amazing woman, Roz Savage, who is attempting to row solo across the Pacific Ocean. That's solo, as in, without even a follow/support boat in case things get really bad.

Maybe I'm just a sucker for things like this, watching people do things I can't even fathom. Or maybe it's that I feel a sort of kinship with people like this, even though my adventurous life has been slowed down a bit by injury and my career (I'll fully admit I'm not brave enough to quit my job and just do something like this). She's already rowed across the Atlantic Ocean in 2006.

Anyway, I've been following along on her blog and on Twitter, and listening to the podcasts that are being recorded when Leo Laporte (chief TWiT) calls her 3 times a week. I thought others here might be interested.

TWiT page (podcasts available here, recorded live Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET):
Podcasts also availble on iTunes, if you search for "Roz Rows The Pacific."

Monday, June 02, 2008

Yep, It's Sprained

Or at least, the doctor thinks it is. It's hard to tell how severe a sprain is with me, but more on that in a minute. For now, my left thumb/wrist is in a splint similar to this one. It's kind of annoying, because I don't like the wrist constriction, but the doc is playing it safe, and I can't say I blame him. I'll be splinted for 2 weeks.

Ok, so the reason that it's hard to tell how severe a sprain is on me is because the doctor thinks I may have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Let me back up. 3 Advil 3 times a day was helping my hip feel better, but as soon as the Advil wore off, I was back in pain, so I ended up going back to the orthpod a few weeks ago. He wanted to give me a cortisone shot, but I was a little concerned about getting one, because I've heard from another orthopaedist that cortisone shots can lead to deterioration of the ligaments and tendons in the joint, and I've got a history of rather loose ligaments and bad quality ligaments and tendons. He assured me it would be OK, as it was just 1 injection, so we did it, and my hip's feeling close to 100% now. Sometimes, it twinges with certain things at the gym, but all in all it's good.

That's when he asked about my joints. You see, I've had 2 shoulder surgeries (1 on each shoulder) and 4 ankle surgeries. The shoulders were for repeated dislocations, even though I never had a traumatic dislocation. The ankle was for torn ligaments (torn playing soccer), and because none of the first 3 surgeries worked, I had to have it fused in the 4th. Since those surgeries, I've had one more non-traumatic subluxation of my shoulder (last November). That's when the doc suggested I might have something called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and mentioned I should get tested.

According to Wikipedia, Ehlers-Danlos is, "a group of rare genetic disorders affecting humans and domestic animals caused by a defect in collagen synthesis. Depending on the individual mutation, the severity of the disease can vary from mild to life-threatening. There is no known cure. Treatment is supportive." One of the classic symptoms of this is having hypermobile joints, which my doctors all agree I do. There are other symptoms, but that's the big one.

Needless to say, I think that there's a good chance I do have it. It would certainly help explain why I've had so many joint issues. It would also help explain why my first 3 ankle surgeries, performed by good surgeons, didn't work properly. So, at the moment, I'm waiting for the Genetic Medicine group at Hopkins to give me a call back. I've done the preliminary call, now I need for a genetic counselor to call me, take a history, and determine which doctor I should see.

So that's that. Knowing I have generally "bad" ligaments, I try to treat my injuries with kid gloves, and it seems my doc is doing the same. He thinks I've only got a fairly mild sprain, but my right thumb joint is also very "loose" so it's hard to tell the extent of the sprain. If it still hurts in 2 weeks (which I doubt it will), I'll go back. Fun times. Have I mentioned that I love my joints?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I Think I Sprained My Thumb

I'm talented in so many ways. After my workout at the gym this evening, I was picking up my bag to go home and somehow, it slipped out of my hand, and my left thumb caught on the strap, bending my thumb backwards. Yes, you read that correctly, I made it all the way through my workout with no major issues, and then I hurt myself on my gym bag.

I've got it taped up now and am icing it. Depending on how it feels tomorrow, I may call a doctor. Normally, I wouldn't be terribly concerned about a sprain where I didn't feel or hear a pop, but due to some other potential mitigating circumstances (which I'll try to write about tomorrow), I'm starting to treat any potential soft-tissue injury with kid gloves.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Hip Pain: Update

My hip pain got worse over the course of the past week, to a point where it hurt to walk and it hurts to sleep on it. When I realized that rolling onto it caused pain on this past Tuesday night, I decided a trip to the doctor was in order. I saw the doc on Friday morning, where he took x-rays, moved it around, and gave it a good look-over. We saw that I have a small bone spur on my hip, but he doesn't think that's what's causing the problem, and he thinks it's a muscle that I pulled hardcore. So instead of taking 2 Advil liqui-gels every 4 hours, I'm taking 2 Aleve twice a day. The Aleve seems to be helping a little bit, though it still hurts to walk and stuff. Without going onto crutches (which he said might help, which I'm NOT doing), there really isn't much of a way to rest a hip.

So I took off Friday and Saturday, and I'm taking off today, with the hopes of starting back up at the gym tomorrow. I need to get a bathing suit so I can swim (which should be gentler to the hip) and I'll continue to ride the exercise bike (which doesn't seem to bother my hip too much), avoiding the elliptical until it doesn't hurt to walk. And, I'll be using the whirlpool at the gym after my workouts, which should also help. On a side note, I'm even more frustrated with my hand, as taking 2 Aleve twice daily doesn't seem to help it too still hurts to play video games and stuff...

Monday, April 07, 2008

I <3 My Joints

My hip has been hurting, and for once I'm not sure why. I've had hip pain sporadically over the last year or so, which I've attributed to doing too much at the gym, usually on the elliptical. A little heat, a little "Vitamin I," and a little rest is all it usually takes to make it better. I still think that this bout of hip pain is related to doing too much at the gym, but now it seems delayed and seems to be taking longer to feel better. I haven't worked out since Thursday evening, having taken off the weekend because I wasn't feeling well and I took off today since my hip is still hurting (it's been hurting since Saturday) and I'm exhausted from not sleeping well last night (which may be related to the fact that I haven't worked out since Thursday...).

I wish I had normal joints. Between my shoulders (which are doing well for now, but I'll need to ensure to keep them strong for the rest of my life, lest I dislocate either again, as I did not too long ago), my ankle (fused), my hand problems, and now my hip, I'm beginning to think I just can't win...maybe I SHOULD try to get back in the pool...

Monday, March 31, 2008

Neal Stephenson Returns!

Neal Stephenson is one of my favorite authors. I got hooked on him when my friend Elisa lent me a copy of Snow Crash, which is often compared to Gibson's Neuromancer. I had no idea what to expect at the time, but a day or two later, I'd finished reading the book (I got through Snow Crash much more quickly than I did Neuromancer, Stephenson's writing style is a lot easier to get into than Gibson's for me). I quickly moved onto The Diamond Age (of which there is a magnificent unabridged version at and then I started the Goliath that is Cryptonomicon. I admit, it took me longer to get through Cryptonomicon, in part because the story was a lot more...complicated, or involved, but it also was due to the fact that the book is over 1,000 pages long. From there, it was a short jump to the books of The Baroque Cycle: Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World. Interface was another book of his that I read later, as was Zodiac, though Zodiac was in my esteem his weakest novel. These books, as a whole, represent to me what good science fiction should be: just on the edge of believability and a story that sucks you in. Stephenson is one of the authors I compare other science fiction authors to as a measure of how good they are.

Via slashdot, I came across an article on the TIME (the magazine) blog touting Stephenson's return. His new book, Anathem, is already available for pre-order on, with a release date of September 9, 2008. The TIME blog quotes the story description, "Since childhood, Raz has lived behind the walls of a 3,400-year-old monastery, a sanctuary for scientists, philosophers, and mathematicians—sealed off from the illiterate, irrational, unpredictable "saecular" world that is plagued by recurring cycles of booms and busts, world wars and climate change. Until the day that a higher power, driven by fear, decides that only these cloistered scholars have the abilities to avert an impending catastrophe. And, one by one, Raz and his cohorts are summoned forth without warning into the Unknown."

I don't know if there are any other Stephenson-lovers out there, but this is definitely on my "must get" list.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

If I Kill Oz...'ll know why.

My TV is a 52" Sony Bravia XBR LCD (the exact numbers are KDL-52XBR4, but that really doesn't matter much). The TV it replaced was a 30-ish inch CRT TV that was at least 10 years old, one I got when my aunt passed away in 2001. With the old TV, Oz would sometimes lay on top of it and if I was playing a soccer video game, or when playing Final Fantasy X, he'd try to bat at the ball/cursor moving around on the screen. It was funny, but it was a rare occurrence, and so it wasn't much of a problem.

With this new TV, Oz seems to want to attack everything. If I have the Cartoon Network on, he attacks the logo in the lower left corner. If I have sports on (like soccer or basketball), he bats at the ball, and only runs away when the TV zooms to a close-up of a player coming towards the camera. If I have a movie on, he bats at things moving on the screen. I'm going to have to buy a spray bottle to contend with the situation...or, you know, kill him. ;)

He's much cuter when he's trying to imitate the RCA dog.

On Goals

It's good to have goals in life. Goals for your professional life, goals for your personal life, goals give you something to work towards and allow you a feeling of accomplishment when you've met your goals. When I started writing here "actively" again in late '06, my goal was to lose weight so I didn't look like a fat cow at Wendy's wedding. As a means to that end, I started working out again, a little over 2 years after having my ankle fused.

At the time, it was difficult. The old ways I would work out were no longer viable. Back before I hosed my ankle beyond belief, I would run and do martial arts and play soccer. With a fused ankle, running and jumping are physically impossible, so those outlets were inaccessible. I was never one to enjoy going to the gym, and hated the idea of weight lifting before I hurt my ankle. So, to meet my goal in late '06, I found myself doing those things I never considered before my injury and subsequent surgeries--I joined a gym and hired a personal trainer to help me out.

Needless to say, I've made a lot of progress. Wendy's wedding came and went (beautifully, despite my running a fever on the big day), and I found myself enjoying the gym. My friends had started calling me a gym rat, and even though I'd achieved my goals for Wendy's wedding, I found I didn't want to stop working out. In retrospect, this shouldn't have been a surprise, but at the time it was. I decided to shift my goal to generically "lose weight." Through the course of my injuries and surgeries, I spent almost 2 years virtually unable to walk (and when I could walk, it was very short distances), and I decided to keep working out with Brian (my trainer) and keep up with my cardio to help lose more weight that I'd gained while recovering from my ankle mess.

That was almost a year ago. These days, I'm about 20 pounds heavier than I was when I was at my lightest, but I'm also lifting regularly, something I NEVER did when I was at my lightest, so it's hard to judge things based purely on numbers. I bet I could lose a bit more weight, but if I don't, I'm ok with it, knowing I'm healthy and looking pretty good. I'm still a gym rat, though, as I'm at the gym 5-6 days per week on average.

On cardio days, I do between 65 and 90 minutes of fairly high-intensity cardio (I've been erring on the side of 65 lately, as work has been keeping my schedule really busy, and I've been working out at ~85% of my max heart rate). On lifting days (about twice a week with Brian), I warm up with ~30 minutes of cardio and then lift with him for an hour. But now I'm starting to wonder what my goal is/should be. It's no longer "lose weight" as it were, and it's not like there are too many things I can compete in that I can train for.

My hand is still causing problems, which is a part of why I'm not at this point interested in a cycling-related goal (the vibrations through the handlebars hurt my hand, and pulling my rear brake as it's currently configured is painful, too). I recently re-dislocated my right shoulder, and though I'm done with rehab, I'm afraid that swimming may overstress it, like it did years ago, when I needed stabilizing surgeries on both of my shoulders.

So, I'm at a loss. Maybe the right answer is that I should go back to the hand doc and try to figure out what's wrong with my hand and how to make it better, but right now, I'm not sure I'm ready for that, mentally. Or maybe I should see how much more weight I can lose. Maybe make a new goal of losing 10 pounds, and take it from there. Or maybe in this case I don't need a goal....

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Utah Pictures

I finally got around to uploading all the photos from my trip to Utah. I'm still in the process of adding descriptions, full tags, and notes as appropriate over at flickr. However, if you want to see the complete set of pictures (only about 1/4 of them have descriptions), the set is available here.

If anybody has been to This is the Place Heritage Park, and knows who this is a statue of, can you please leave a note in the comments on the picture?

Also, if anybody lives in the Salt Lake City area and can snap a photo of the signs guiding you to This is the Place, I'd be much obliged. I meant to grab one when I was down there (you know, the sign that says This is the Place, with an arrow in the right direction), but I ran out of time and good weather...

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Super Wednesday?

Wendy kind of gave me some good-natured flack today for not updating more often, so I figured I'd definitely update today. Maybe tomorrow, too, we shall see. I was on vacation in Utah for most of last week, and I've got photos to upload, so maybe if I get that done, I'll post something here... Anyway, for now, here's a bunch of random stuff...

Today's workout was:
1 hour, 5 minutes on the elliptical, Cross Training Program 2, resistance set at 13 (out of 20).
Average heart rate during exercise: 162 beats per minute
Max heart rate during exercise: 170 beats per minute
According to various methods of calculation, my calculated max heart rate is somewhere between 185 and 192 beats per minute, so my average in today's workout was 84% - 88% of my max. Not too shabby, I'd say.

Last 10 songs that came up on my iPod (while listening on random shuffle to my "Music Only NO CLASSICAL" smart playlist):
1. Don Davis - Main Title (from The Matrix Reloaded soundtrack)
2. Switchfoot - Meant to Live
3. Rod Stewart - Forever Young
4. Sonic Youth - Superstar
5. Hoobastank - From the Heart
6. Bowling for Soup - 1985
7. Young MC - Principal's Office
8. The Beach Boys - In My Room
9. Pat Green - Three Days
10. Arcade Fire - Neighborhood #2

I'm going through a rather long process of trying to remove songs from my iPod that I don't particularly care for. I have a 60 GB 5th generation (video) iPod with 27.35 GB of audio (12.03 GB is audiobooks), 5 MB of photos, 19.28 GB of video, and 273.7 MB of "other" (which includes the highly addictive game Peggle). Basically, what I do is put it on random shuffle while I'm at work, and note what songs need to be removed (and then remove them at home). It's a slow process, but it works.

Finally, on some sad news, I just read that Sheldon Brown passed away on Sunday. I first was introduced to his wonderful website while still an undergraduate at University of Maryland, trying to build my own single-speed bike (to this day, I still long to build up a fixed-gear bike, but I have neither the time nor the ability to ride right now...). Over the years, I've gone back to his site time and time again to get tips and tricks for various bike-related things, specifically related to bicycle repair.

I guess that's enough random rambling for now. Now I'm off to listen to the CAG Foreplay podcast, where this week I'm donating the prize, a copy of Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations.

Monday, January 07, 2008

I'm Not a Doctor, But... (On Clemens)

I'm not a doctor, and I don't play one on the internet, but I do have more than my fair share of experience with orthopedic and sports injuries (8 orthopedic surgeries so far...). Keeping aside the fact that Clemens hasn't exactly "acted" like an innocent person (given how long it took him to make a REAL statement, how he has been dancing around things, etc....), and that if McNamee's testimony/information to the Mitchell investigation was really under duress, it's certainly suspect, these are my thoughts...

I didn't watch Clemens on "60 Minutes" last night, for fear that I'd get so annoyed I'd throw things at the TV and get my blood pressure needlessly elevated. What I have seen of it, through clips on ESPN and such, don't really add up to me.

First, about the injections of vitamin B-12. We've heard it before, athletes claiming that they've been injected with vitamin B-12, in part (at least) to combat fatigue (it helps maintain healthy nerve and red blood cells). Last time we heard it, with Raphael Palmeiro, at least some of that "B-12" was probably steroids. Vitamin B-12 is commonly found in meats, particularly seafood and beef, so people with a normal diet should naturally get enough to cover the recommended daily allowance without supplements. For those who don't, my bottle of Centrum says that one pill has 100% the RDA of B12. Though it can be hard to get from foods, because it requires a few steps to be proceceed correctly, in supplement form, what you see is what you get. Why would somebody bother to inject it, even if they were trying to get more than the "normal" amount?

On another point, in the NY Times, it says that having the vitamin injected by a trainer is illegal in some states. I'm not sure if that means that it's illegal to have a trainer do it, or if it's illegal to have in the injectible form, or even what states it IS illegal (or legal) in. It's also stated that as an injectible, B-12 is given intravenously, but if it's been injected into the buttocks, that's hitting mostly muscle, not veins... It just strikes me as odd to get a vitamin which can easily be taken in pill form as an injection. But maybe he has a needle fetish?

As for the lidocaine, I'm much more skeptical, and this comes from a lot of personal experience with docs trying to keep me playing and keep me from going under the knife. Unless Clemens had a sore butt, there really would be no reason to inject lidocaine there. It's not a drug that acts systemically--it works only where you inject it. I've had it injected for "joint pain" only in the small joint in my hand. Though I've read that it helps if you have point pain in a joint, most of the other joints are too large to be treated by lidocaine injected into the joint (without multiple injections over the area), again, we heard from McNamee that he injected Clemens in the butt. Not in a joint.

The other way that lidocaine can be used for pain, in a more systemic matter, is to have it injected into a nerve. They do this before some surgeries (both of my shoulder surgeries were done with this method), and during/after some surgeries (in all of my ankle surgeries, I had it done to help with post-op pain management), and I believe it's sort of what pain management specialists do (based on my one visit to one). However, for a lot of the nerves in question, to find the nerve and ensure they're in the right place, the DOCTOR doing the injecting will first stick you with an electric needle. I know of at least one nerve where this isn't the case, but I also know of a few (from personal experience) where it definitely is the case. So it strikes me as highly unlikely that McNamee did THAT.

That all said, for longer-term joint pain management, most docs would I'm guessing recommend cortisone injections, and those are relatively easy to get from the team doc, it seems, so I think it's fairly unlikely that McNamee was injecting Clemens with those, especially given that injecting those incorrectly can cause other problems (I once had one go into a nerve...that was excruciating).

I'm highly suspicious of Clemens, and what he said on 60 Minutes only makes me more convinced that he's lying, or at least not telling the whole truth. In the end, it's going to turn into a he-said/he-said situation, and we may never have proof, but so far, color me skeptical...

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

My Adorable Nephew

2007 12 24 and 25 020
Originally uploaded by terpkristin
Isn't he cute?

Happy New Year!!!

Happy New Year to the one or two of you who might read this.

I'm not really big on resolutions, but one of my goals for this year is to write here with more frequency...and hopefully, find something interesting to write about...

I'll be posting a picture of my nephew here in a minute or two. At least then, those few of you who come will see an absolutely adorable little kid.